Why do older camera lenses have faster F-stops?

Started Apr 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,130
Weston 8, GE 12, ASA 10...

Barrie Davis wrote:

Joseph S Wisniewski wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

vjk2 wrote:

I've gotten into vintage lenses lately, and it seems like with these older lenses, they're often much faster than the lenses I've gotten used to in the modern era.

I use Olympus and while I know that there is a 50mm f2.0 prime lens that costs $400, there are a number of less expensive vintage manual lenses I know of which will range from $50 for a f2 50mm to at most something like $150 for a f1.4

Could it be...what, autofocus, maybe the zoom design that makes modern lenses so dim?

It IS because the older lenses were of fixed focal length, not zooms, that the manufactures had more freedom to produce wide aperture designs.

Wide apertures were more necessary, too.

Like that Zeiss 50mm f0.7 that Kubrick snagged from NASA.

For a long time the fastest available colour film was 400 ASA (ISO)... the quality of which was so grainy (noisy) that people used it with reluctance, often choosing to stick with 100 ASA (ISO) stocks instead.... Slide films were even slower: The best Kodachrome was 25 ASA (ISO).

You youngsters, spoiled rotten by that fast Kodachrome 25. Everyone knows that the best stuff was the Kodachrome 8.

I don't remember K8, but my Daddy used K10, or was it K12? Hmm...


Kodachrom predates ASA film speeds. There were a bunch of systems in use at the time, and Kodak rated their 1936 Kodachrome at Weston 8 or GE 12, based on how those two electronics companies decided to calibrate their meters.

ASA is basically an "average" of the common film speed systems, so the first Kodachrome to have an ASA rating in 1945 ended up ASA 10.

There was supposedly an ASA 6 Kodachrome sheet film. That must have been something.

Which came first of KII and K25.... ?
Was it KII?

1955 for the K II line. They were probably up to ASA 25 by then.

If so, it was my fave.. the later film was just a bit too soft.

By the K64 era I was a pro, and mail order shooting on E2/E3 most of the time. I remember we had to keep seperate processing lines for rollfilm E2, and sheets E3.

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Rahon Klavanian 1912-2008.
Armenian genocide survivor, amazing cook, scrabble master, and loving grandmother. You will be missed.
Ciao! Joseph

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